How Canada's Marijuana Legalization Changes the Game
Experts weigh in on the global significance of this landmark decision.
We’ve all seen countless articles about Canada’s decision to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on a federal level. Analysts and reporters discussed what this meant for Canada and the US, but what about the world?
First G-7 Nation to legalize marijuana
Canada has become the first G7 nation to legalize marijuana despite a decision earlier this year by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which issued a report classifying the legalization of marijuana for recreational uses as a “clear violation” of the U.N.'s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. While Uruguay disregarded this international treaty, Jamaica was deterred from moving toward full legalization. Now, Canada has joined Uruguay on the rebel band.
Stuart Titus, CEO of publicly-traded Medical Marijuana, Inc., defined Canada's move as a “total game-changer for the overall cannabis industry,” highlighting the importance of a G7 nation setting up the framework for legal cannabis and investments in the space going forward. Similarly, Tim McGraw, CEO/Founder of Canna-Hub, said Canada would serve as “a case study as to what adult use cannabis legalization can look like in a developed nation.
“The Cannabis Act legalizes cannabis but leaves it up to each province to decide how to regulate it," he said. "Countries, including America, will be watching closely to better understand the challenges and opportunities that come will full-scale legalization as Canada works toward its official legalization date of October 17."
UN feels the heat
In the view of Leslie Bocskor, investment banker and president of the cannabis advisory firm Electrum Partners, this is a critical moment for the United Nations. “The U.N. is in trouble. They're facing a growing sense of irrelevancy led by the populist and conservative movements around the world,” he noted.
“But there’s more: the U.N. is facing another crisis. Their policy on cannabis is wrong and if they don't get in front of changing the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and countries like Canada, eventually the U.S., hopefully Mexico, Spain, Greece, and others start establishing medical markets, which are in contravention of the treaty, and then adult markets, other countries will start disregarding the treaty as well,” he added. “So, if the U.N. is not able to reverse itself and get in front of this rapidly, what's going to happen is you're going to have other nations that are just going to legalize notwithstanding.”
What Uruguay has learned.
Since Uruguay is the only country with an active recreational marijuana program, I reached out to some people down there.
Eduardo Blasina, the founder of the Montevideo Cannabis Museum and a director at Cannabis Uruguay Ltd., a local medical cannabis producer, said that Canada's decision was expected but importnant. Why? "First off, because the law was approved within the timeframe that had been projected at the beginning of the year, and counted with substantial parliamentary support,” he said.
In addition, Blasina noted, this move puts Canada on par with Uruguay in terms of its freedom to produce every variation of psychoactive cannabis.
Finally, he said, “this move will generate an explosion of new products: foods, drinks, medicines and industrial products," adding, “The main thing to observe here will be the international financial system. Will it take in the new reality and relax the rules that are limiting the development of the cannabis industry in Uruguay?
“Taking into account the magnitude of the Canadian market, I’d expect regulations to loosen up soon,” he concluded.
Gastón Lepera, CEO of MedroPharm partner Greenfields Health Care returned to the global impact of Canada’s move, highlighting the country’s healthy mix of responsibility and freedom. As uses of cannabis evolve, so will the industry, he argues. “I believe Canada’s legalization marks the fall of the ‘prohibition wall,’ as the country bets on a new era without boogiemen or traps,” he said.
But it was not only Uruguayans who brought up the South American nation’s lead in the recreational cannabis realm. Vikas Desai, partner at cannabis investment firm WelCan Capital, also did. “Following Uruguay, Canada's legalization of cannabis sends a strong message to the rest of the globe: it is time to end prohibition," he said. “This is a global turning point. With one of the largest industrialized democracies in the world legalizing cannabis, more countries are waking up to the fact that licensing, taxing, regulating and enforcing cannabis is far better public policy than following an outdated approach.”
What happens now
I asked my expert panel what to expect how that Canada has changed the game.
Sara Gullickson, CEO and owner of DispensaryPermits.com, noted that, “The cannabis industry is fast becoming a lifestyle for a mainstream market.” She predicted that in five to seven years, “cannabis will be in kitchen cabinets."
Gullickson believes that “Canada’s actions are a step forward to reduce the stigma surrounding the industry. It is offering alternative solutions for wellbeing, which is great. This really is a wellness industry above all. A year from now, when other countries realize that legalizing cannabis did nothing but help their economy and the overall health and well-being of its citizens, maybe others will follow. I’m a firm believer that we have a long way to go, but this is a big step for us. Not only for the industry as a whole, but also for patients and people that are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Titus also brought up the banking issue. “We are also going to witness banking reform and the ability for the Canadian, possibly international, banking system to allow for ‘normal’ business practices, including the payment of cannabis employees via the Canadian banking system.
“We believe this has tremendous spill-over applications for the rest of the world,” he voiced.
Nicolas Ruiz, CPO of Chile-based Cloudponics said that "full legalization in Canada will help push away the stigma that cannabis faces in other countries... As others see the social and medical benefits of this wonderful plant, we predict that people (who are curious beings by nature) will be intrigued by growing their own. We envision at-home cannabis growing will take on a similar trajectory that craft brewing has…”
Finally, Canna-Hub’s McGraw shared some conclusions: “Based on positive data we are seeing from states here in the U.S. that have passed adult-use cannabis laws, we anticipate Canada will enjoy a significant reduction in drug-related crimes and a noticeable economic impact on its GDP.
“The real growth opportunity for Canada’s economy will come from its ability to export cannabis,” he said, quoting reports from Marijuana Business Daily, which suggested a surge in medical marijuana exports. “As more countries worldwide adopt cannabis legislation that allows for the importation of cannabis, Canada is well positioned to service these markets as its own production market continues to swell. Legalization will also spur more investment in cannabinoid science and research, further positioning Canada as a reliable source of cannabis for countries who have not yet developed their own cannabis infrastructure.
“Canada’s legalization of cannabis demonstrates that we have reached an international tipping point in the development of pro-cannabis policies and it is only a matter of time before the U.S. and other countries follow suit,” he said.